NOT REALLY KID STUFF: Mark Macreading has become one of the most authoritive writers about toy truck collecting in America. The diecast trucks he collects are usually overruns of promotional models made for corporate sponsors and not necessarily for children to play with.
On September 11, 2001, Ladder Company 10, the 1994 Seagrave 100-foot rear-mount aerial was destroyed. Six of the firefighters assigned to the truck were killed.
By the time the dust settled and the long process of counting and accounting for the dead was done, six was a very small number but this was a special six. While other people were running away from the holocaust unfolding before their eyes, those six were running into it. It was an extraordinary display of courage but it was not rare on that day. They were only six of 343 firefighters who died that day, along with 23 New York City policemen and 37 Port Authority officers. They were only six of the nearly 3,000 people who died, but for the men and women who knew them, who served with them and lived with them, they were special.
When Ladder Company 10 re-entered service on February 19, 2002, the truck had been replaced by a second-hand 1989 Seagrave 100-foot rear-mount that had originally been assigned to Ladder Company 61, but a little over a month later, that truck was replaced by a 2001 Seagrave. The new truck has murals depicting firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero. The people who built the Seagrave donated the mural as a gesture of respect for the men of FDNY 10 and the fire truck is now known as “The Ten Truck.”
There hasn’t been much on the national news about the truck but people who live in New York know what The Ten Truck represents every time it responds to an alarm. They look at the truck, the only one with that mural, and remember 9/11 and all that it has come to mean to Americans.
In 2007, Code 3 Collectibles, a toy truck company, came out with a 1:32 scale model of the Ten Truck that was a big hit in the small world of serious toy truck collectors.
“It was one of their Diamond Plate series”, said Mark Macreading of Warwick. “I thought it was very well done, extremely well built, almost museum quality.”
Code 3 was the maker of record for FDNY models until it announced earlier this year that it too has succumbed to the economic realities of the times and is going out of business.
As for Macreading, he’s not going anywhere. He’s been a collector of toy trucks since the early 1970s and has so steeped himself in the lore of trucks and model trucks, he has become a nationally known expert on the subject and a senior columnist for Toy Trucker and Contractor, a magazine devoted to the hobby that has a circulation of 30,000. That number may surprise people who are unfamiliar with the world of toy trucks, but Macreading said the ancillary hobby of toy farm equipment’s most popular magazine has a circulation of 100,000.
“The hobby is even bigger overseas”, he said. “There are millions of people who collect toy trucks or similar models. Toy tractors and agricultural machines are very big in the Midwest.”
Do not think that this is a hobby dominated by little boys or arrested adolescents. Grown men are very interested in toy trucks and get even more excited about certain trucks. While he doesn’t have the exact numbers for The Ten Truck, Macreading estimates that between 5,000 and 10,000 were made and the truck has sold out.
”Truck people who are into fire equipment loved the Ten Truck”, said Macreading. “Code 3 has always done a good job with the exterior of their trucks but other makers put more emphasis on interior details, like engines and other things that are not as visible, but most collectors wanted the Ten Truck.”
Like any area of collecting, there are sub-categories and areas where they overlap. Sometimes farm collectors want certain trucks and sometimes truck people want farm things. The Ten Truck is one of those rare times when truck, farm and fire people share the enthusiasm for an object with people who don’t usually collect models of anything. The Ten Truck has come to mean something much larger than its actual size. Why that came to be is food for thought. Why toys have always fascinated adults and children can’t be adequately addressed in a newspaper story. We’ll have to wait for some serious scholar who loves toys to base a doctoral thesis on the subject, but we can safely say our love of toys goes back to prehistoric times.
Dolls depicting infants, soldiers, animals and tools have been found in many archaeological sites. They were not always intended for children. The ancient Egyptians entombed their loved ones with miniature versions of all the things they would need in the afterlife, like boats, swords, bowls and other objects of ordinary life.
We can also safely say that our fascination with diminutive versions of our world didn’t diminish with our adulthood. Our museums hold many finely crafted tiny models of ships, planes, automobiles, suits of armor and suites of furniture that very few children have ever been allowed to touch.
”The Winross Company was the first to do toy trucks as an advertising tool on a large scale,” said Macreading. “I have Winross Howard Johnson trucks that go back to the 1960s.”
Winross is a die-cast model truck producer based in upstate New York, just west of Rochester. The company was started in 1963 to make models of White trucks and pioneered 1/64 scale promotional model semi-tractor-trailer trucks. The trucks were known for their wide variety of logos and promotional ads on their sides. Over time, trucks have become more sophisticated and the company has moved into silkscreen printing for a variety of products.
”They made models in limited numbers for trucking companies, movers and a lot of other companies,” said Macreading. It is the overruns that they did for those companies that were sold to collectors.
”There are some trucks that only three samples were made and never went into production. Those are the ones that collectors dream about”, said Macreading.
More commonly, the collectors are looking for rare variations or rare early models, or simply rare specimens. But, like all serious collectors, Macreading cautions people to do their homework and to avoid any products that present themselves as collectors’ editions or promise some appreciation in value for something that was a “limited edition” they don’t give the numbers for.
“Most of the time. They are poor quality, mass produced trucks or cars that will never be of interest to collectors,” said Macreading. He said, as almost all experts do, buying collectibles for the possible financial return is a loser’s game.
“You should always buy what you like,” he said. “Once you start doing it for the money, its not fun anymore.”
So don’t bother calling Macreading to favorably endorse your product or your collection. You just may not like what he has to say about it.
“I was approached by one of those companies who wanted me to say something positive about their product. I just couldn’t do that. I don’t endorse what I review. I have a reputation that I’d rather keep than sell.”